TARPON SPRINGS — When it's all done, the city's performing arts center, the beaux arts style building built in 1924 on Pine Street, will have received about $640,000 worth of renovations: upgrades in lighting, a new sound system, new curtains and more.
One year ago, as center director Kathy Monahan prepared the performing arts calendar for the fall, renovations were in the beginning phase. They were expected to be completed by this month. Monahan planned accordingly.
However, the work has taken longer than expected. It is now slated to be done by the end of January, causing Monahan and her staff to scramble.
"We got creative," Monahan said.
With the help of Michael Raysses, the theater operations manager, Mark Jump, the assistant theater operations manager, and Jim McNeely, opera production manager, Monahan decided to move eight shows to two other venues in the city.
The juggling act includes using the Heritage Museum with its renovated Gen Haley Ecology Wing and Christopher Still exhibit for seven of the shows and the St. Nicholas Cathedral Community Center on North Pinellas Avenue, with its large, 300-seat auditorium, for one show (The Brothers Four on Jan. 23).
First up was Lucia di Lammermoor, a Romeo and Juliet-themed story presented by New City Opera last weekend. Ticket holders were re-directed to the museum.
For several weeks, workers scrambled to transform the museum into a makeshift opera house. Although there was already seating in a banquet area for 125, a raised stage, 30 feet long, was built and curtains hung over the windows, including a cover for the skylight. Video screens and additional audio equipment also were brought in.
Although the venue lacked a green room and a dressing room, more than 24 performers made do, sharing the few private nooks and crannies to check their makeup and tighten up their floor-length costumes. In between acts, several members of the cast were spotted relaxing under Still's life-size artwork.
"It was so intimate. Everyone loves the setting," said Diane Wood, arts marketing and programs manager, who was on hand for the opening of the opera.
On Saturday, the three-time Grammy winner and baritone Sherrill Milnes and his wife, soprano Maria Zouves, who live in Palm Harbor, will perform on the new stage during A Night Before Christmas.
"I think the intimacy will work well for that show, too," Wood said. "The audience will like being so close to Sherrill and Maria, and actually, Sherrill and Maria have performed in the Heritage Museum many times, so they are familiar with what's being done."
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.